The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saving Private Lynch: Iraqis helped, Americans blundered

London, July 10: The heroic tale of Jessica Lynch, the teenage US soldier rescued from Iraqi captivity in a televised commando raid, has been largely debunked by an official military investigation, it emerged yesterday.

The 15-page report dismissed lurid media accounts — based on intelligence intercepts and passed to US reporters by military officials — that Private Lynch fought back fiercely as her supply convoy was ambushed in Nasiriyah, central Iraq, on March 23. It had been claimed that she fired until her ammunition ran out before being overpowered, shot and stabbed by her captors.

Instead Lynch suffered “horrific injuries” when the Humvee in which she was riding was struck by enemy fire, and crashed into a broken-down lorry at 45 miles per hour.

She survived “principally because of the medical attention she received from the Iraqis”, a Pentagon source told yesterday’s Washington Times.

Early reports also referred to her supply convoy, from 507th Maintenance Company, being ambushed by Iraqi forces.

But the investigation found that a series of blunders by a commanding officer led the lumbering, 13-vehicle convoy directly into Nasiriyah, a well-defended town.

It concluded that Captain Troy Kent King, a newly promoted 37-year-old from Texas, misread his orders and took a series of wrong turns into the town, past waving Iraqis at military checkpoints.

As the convoy attempted two successive U-turns, vehicles broke down, ran out of petrol, became stuck or collided with each other while Iraqi fire poured in on the column, the report said. Many of the Americans’ weapons jammed, possibly due to poor maintenance.

Of the 33 soldiers who entered Nasiriyah, 11 were killed, seven were captured and one died in captivity, the report said. It did not touch on allegations of summary executions or mistreatment, which are being investigated separately.

The army report assigns no blame to Captain King, saying he committed a “navigational error caused by the combined effects of the operational pace, acute fatigue, isolation and harsh environmental conditions”.

Private Lynch remains in a US military hospital near Washington and is reported to remember nothing of her ordeal. She is still undergoing treatment after suffering serious injuries to her back and broken bones in her arms and legs.

Her rescue by US special forces — filmed by the military and released in time for prime-time television news programmes — sealed her status as the pre-eminent good news story of the conflict. Since her return, television networks have circled Private Lynch and her family for her story rights, dangling book deals, guest star roles on TV and a pop concert in her impoverished home town in rural West Virginia. Several fictionalised television accounts of her story are already in the works.

A BBC documentary suggested the rescue was a Hollywood-style stunt designed to boost patriotic support for the war — something the Pentagon had denied.

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